North Philadelphia: Second-Generation Immigrant Creates Haven for Startups

Across from the local 7-Eleven and other corporate establishments that are proliferating across Cecil B. Moore Avenue on Temple University’s main campus, the Fox School of Business’ Small Business Development Center has been helping the local community create start-ups since 1983.

Pearl Wang-Herrera (above), a second-generation immigrant from China, began guiding potential entrepreneurs in 2002. As the incubator manager, she has helped small business owners start and grow their businesses through individual consulting. SBDC also helps with financing through traditional and alternative sources.

BarrenecheaGreenFall14Wang5Wang-Herrera created numerous projects in Philadelphia to teach people the fundamentals of the business world.

In the summer 2012, she developed a business “boot camp” with her husband, pastor Gabriel Herrera, at his church called By Grace Alone. The idea was to teach business concepts to kids ages 10 to 14 while integrating Christian principles.

The project was a two-week program that implemented her passion for faith and economic development. The children were encouraged throughout the program to keep in mind how their business would impact the community.

“We really tried to make the program as hands-on as possible to teach these kids about business,” she said. “We want to teach business concepts in a fun way, but we also want to incorporate what the Bible says about it.”

The participants had to produce their own ice cream product. Afterwards, the children were taught how to develop a marketing campaign, such as creating a logo, slogan and the overall look of their imaginary company. After the two weeks were finished, their work was judged and awarded.

Her dedication to business was not purely accidental. Wang-Herrera’s parents were part of the business world.

“Most of my family were entrepreneurs,” said Wang-Herrera, who sought to combine her desire to pursue a career in economic development, while helping people build a strong foundation in business.

Her parents met in the United States, where her father attended Binghamton University for graduate school. Later, the couple married and headed to Taiwan after her father graduated.

“My dad is an accountant. He is a CPA,” Wang-Herrera said. “Instead of going with numbers in college, I decided to go into marketing.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in marketing from New York University in 1995. The following year, she enrolled in Eastern University, where she obtained her master’s of business administration in economic development.

“The [MBA] program showed me how to incorporate your business skills and help the community,” she said. “Being able to utilize my interest in business and my faith to help the community of Philadelphia really inspired me.”

BarrenecheaGreenFall14Wang4Annie White (right), executive director of Sick of Single, a full-service matchmaking and coaching firm that is part of the incubator, said Wang-Herrera “does an amazing job.”

“She is so positive and inspiring,” White said. “[Wang-Herrera] helps me believe in myself, being a minority woman.”

White, a 2009 graduate of Howard University, believes that Wang-Herrera and the SBDC provides the encouragement she needs to reach her goal.

“To see another minority woman really make it, and blaze a trail for us, is really inspiring,” she said. “I can achieve anything I put my mind into because [Wang-Herrera] leads by example.”

BarrenecheaGreenFall14Wang2David Wesley Cornish (left), a supervising attorney for Cornerstone Legal Group, worked in the incubator for more than two years. He explained how more small businesses began connecting with SBDC when Wang-Herrera stepped to the plate as incubator manager.

“She made the place more vibrant and conducive for clients,” he said. “One of the best things she brought in was a lot of higher-caliber companies that are on the verge of success. She has been very good about selecting the other participants.”

Cornish also explained how Wang-Herrera provided helpful programs like the “Peer Power Hour,” which brings all the incubator participants together to share ideas.

Ized Mitchel Sr. is the owner of Numenco Corp., a company in the incubator that exports and imports heavy construction vehicles and equipment between Liberia and the United States.

“She is hard-working,” he said of Wang-Herrera. “Pearl is determined to see the new business partners succeed in their business journey. She is also concerned about our financial plans and see how well we can put our plan together to see how suitable we can be for credit.”]

– Text, images and video by Edward Barrenechea and Kevaun Green

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